Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Nicole Xu
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books Pages: 40
Review copy: Final copy via author
Availability: On shelves now
Summary: Sometimes bad things happen, and you have to tell everyone. Sometimes terrible things happen, and everybody knows. On April 19, 1995, something terrible happened in Oklahoma City: a bomb exploded, and people were hurt and killed. But that was not the end of the story. Those who survived—and those who were forever changed—shared their stories and began to heal. Near the site of the bomb blast, an American elm tree began to heal as well. People took care of the tree just as they took care of each other. The tree and its seedlings now offer solace to people around the world grappling with tragedy and loss. Released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, this book commemorates what was lost and offers hope for the future.
My review: It's very difficult to write for young people when the subject is a horrifying and deadly event. There's a balance of providing the truth without overwhelming the readers. Here Barton shares the terrible thing that happened back in 1995, but has also demonstrated the healing that has happened over time.
"Sometimes bad things happen, and you have to tell everyone. Sometimes terrible things happen, and everybody knows." The first lines help readers relate to this event. Bad things could mean a lot of different events or situations and many young people have already seen some terrible things on the news or in their lives.
The tone of the illustrations is subdued with many grays and browns especially in the beginning. As the book progresses, the colors lighten and become a little brighter, but always stay gentle. The illustrations of the tree are particularly hopeful as the roots reach down and stretch out showing connection.
The awfulness of this event is clear. The pain of the loss is not minimized, but the focus of the text is on how the healing began and continued. There are many stories of people in the community reaching out and connecting with others especially through the memorial and the seedlings of the tree that survived. The hope is also seen when people impacted by this event helped others who were facing tragedy.
The author and illustrator include helpful notes about their process and the impact this project had on them.
Recommendation: This is a powerful book that honors the lives of those who died that day while also honoring those who went through the grieving and healing process following the loss. It's a helpful addition to any personal or public library and would be useful in many ways, but especially for providing a way to talk about loss and grief with young people.
Possible Pairings: Here you will find fiction and nonfiction picture book titles for readers dealing with loss